The South African polyethylene (PE) market is segmented by analyzing the supply and demand side dynamics. From a supply standpoint, the local PE manufacturing industry is consolidated with only two companies. Suppliers in the country largely export linear low-density polyethylene (L/LDPE) and a smaller percentage of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). They also export PE to other Southern African countries and China.

From a demand standpoint, the converter market is well established and relatively fragmented due to the array of PE grades and applications demanded by end-user industries. PE downstream applications can be segmented as blow molding, rotational molding, injection molding, film, coatings and pipe & sheet applications. The various industries utilizing these downstream applications include consumer goods, medical and pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, and construction amongst others.

Based on drivers and restraints and the country’s GDP growth which is expected to expand from 1.4% in 2019 to 1.8% in 2023, the growth rate for the PE market is forecast to increase from 1.4% in 2019 to 2.5% in 2024. The growth rate for the HDPE market is forecast to increase from 1.4% in 2019 to 2.5% in 2023. For the LDPE market, the growth rate should rise from 1.4% in 2019 to 2.5% in 2024.

In terms of material and product development, functionality and performance are the key Mega Trends; these are the two top qualities sought by customers across industries. End-user industries, such as electrical and electronics, automotive and construction are evolving constantly, leading to the requirement for technically and functionally superior performance. Engineering plastics are increasingly feeling the pressure from high-performance polymers in new applications.

The global plastics market is reeling under the weight of regulations concerning health hazards and emissions. With rising public consciousness, South Africa is making strides with greener alternatives. Bio-based alternatives are now gaining ground. For instance, the Council of Science for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed a 100% biodegradable carrier bag made from maize and sugarcane by-products.

The major restraint that can be observed is that the plastics conversion industry is characterized by outdated equipment, which limits the global competitiveness of the country’s plastics sector. The utilization of outdated equipment affects both productivity and product quality. This is a result of low investment in new technology due to lowering of the industry’s profit margins, which in turn reduces the availability of new equipment.